US dairy criticizes GI provision in EU-Mexico agreement, EU farmers praise it | TheFencePost.com

US dairy criticizes GI provision in EU-Mexico agreement, EU farmers praise it

-The Hagstrom Report

The U.S. dairy industry criticized the Mexican government for granting European Union products geographic indicator protections under a free trade agreement that the EU and Mexico have completed.

"We are deeply disappointed that Mexico has limited U.S. access by restricting the use of common food names that have been used in the Mexican market for years," said Tom Vilsack,the former Agriculture secretary who is president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

"This undermines the rule of law and the value of the market access terms the U.S. has long had in place with Mexico," Vilsack said.

"While we are pleased that Mexico did not go so far as to grant full market access to the EU for dairy products, Mexico is essentially back-tracking on its mantra of 'doing no harm' in the NAFTA context. We hope as the details are hammered out that Mexico carefully weighs the impact of its remaining decisions pertaining to geographical indications (GI) and common names."

It appears that while Mexico preserved the rights of some common food name users, many key terms were put on the trading block, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the National Milk Producers Federation and the Consortium for Common Names said in a joint news release.

Cheese names such as parmesan, feta, munster, gorgonzola, asiago, fontina and neufchatel appear to be slated for future restrictions despite long-standing generic use and consumer familiarity of many of these names in Mexico, the U.S. dairy groups said.

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Preliminary information on the agreement signals that the U.S. government needs to do even more to ensure that "a bad situation doesn't become even worse as the final details of the agreement are ironed out," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.

"It is deeply frustrating for U.S. farmers and food manufacturers that the U.S. government has not been able to persuade our closest allies — those in the NAFTA region — to simply honor their existing trade commitments to us," Mulhern said.

"This means that our exporters now face fewer opportunities for their products, and trading partners are emboldened to see how much further they can push the boundaries of creating nontariff trade barriers."

The EU obtained exclusive rights for 340 GIs in the Mexico trade agreement, the groups said.

"CCFN is committed to using all legal avenues to continue its work to combat the market restricting impacts of the EU's efforts," said Jaime Castaneda, executive director of the Consortium for Common Food Names.

"We are hopeful that the Mexican Congress recognizes that this rogue approach to GIs policy is bad for consumers and ultimately benefits a handful of European producers at the expense of Mexico's own industry."

Mulhern added, "There have been no new U.S. agreements initiated that allow us to be the ones shaping the rules of trade. This latest blow is a very hard one for our industry. It makes it absolutely essential that the U.S. administration deliver on our industry's NAFTA priorities by providing new dairy market access and eliminating trade-distorting dairy pricing classes such as Canada's Class 7."

Meanwhile, Copa and Cogeca, the groups that represent European Union farmers and co-ops, said in a joint release that it is "good news that Mexico has agreed to recognize our EU quality and production standards like geographical indications which protect the EU's quality produce from imitations. As many as 340 EU products will be protected under the deal."

Copa and Cogeca also said the agreement "shows good balanced trade deals can be reached."

"We believe that the agreement with Mexico can deliver for both sides provided that the import quotas are managed properly," said Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen.

"We welcome in particular the increased access to the Mexican market for our quality cheeses, skimmed milk powder, pork, olive oil and wine under this agreement. It is vital to ensure small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) gain market access, especially cooperatives. Red tape in Mexico must be minimized to lower the threshold for SMEs to enter the Mexican market."

But Pesonnen said he regretted that increased access for Mexican beef to the EU market has been negotiated, saying that "an import quota of 10,000 tons of beef is 10,000 tons too much."

"Copa and Cogeca will remain vigilant on the higher market access for beef, fruit and vegetables especially in view of the cumulative impact it can have on these sectors," he said.